Inside Out & Back Again
Today's politically turbulant world is the scene of massive
immigration. Looking at the sheer numbers can overwhelm us and blind
us to the reality that these crowds are composed of individuals as
distinct as we are, often frightened and bewildered young people who
travel from native lands in turmoil to hugely different host
countries. Thanhha Lai's Inside Out & Back Again, based on the
author's own childhood experiences, told in sparse and evocative free
verse, helps personalize the kids we see on tv and the challenges they
Ha lives with her mother and three aggravating brothers in
Saigon. Her Navy father vanished nine years ago when she was a baby.
Soldiers are everywhere. She can't play outside at night. Alarm
sirens require her to hide under her bed. The war is getting very
close to home.
School closes early. There is never enough to eat. People who
can manage to do so flee, convinced that the end of the South Vietnam
they call home is at hand. Ha's mother decides they too must leave.
"I've lived in the North.
At first, not much will happen,
then suddenly Quang
will be asked to leave college.
Ha will come home
chanting the slogans
of Ho Chi Minh,
and Khoi will be rewarded
for reporting to his teacher
everything we say in the house."
In very poignant moment as they prepare a meager supper, with tears in
her eyes, she tells her daughter:
"You deserve to grow up
where you don't worry about
saving half a bite
of sweet potatoe."
After a dangerous and arduous boat voyage and a layover at a
tent city in Guam a new life in Alabama presents its own challenges.
American food is very strange. English is a challenging language to
learn. There are bullies at school and in the community. Ha has
moments when she would choose to be in war time Saigon rather than
peace time Alabama.
This poignant coming of age story is a great read for
intermediate grade students, especially those in schools that receive
On a personal note, this week UMaine has been celebrating Pride Week.
From the flag raising and tee shirt tie dying Monday through the tea
party and open mic and all the other activities it has been nothing
short of amazing.
A great big shout out goes out to all the fine folks who made this
year's pride week such a success.
Sent from my iPod